Investigation into Jonathan Henoche homicide done, says family, but RNC, justice department are mum

·3 min read

It's been one year since Jonathan Henoche died while he was awaiting trial at Her Majesty's Penitentiary, with his death sparking a police homicide investigation.

On Friday, just hours after his family — and their lawyer Bob Buckingham — demanded the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary and justice officials provide an update on the investigation, they said they got one.

"The police called my clients' family and indicated to them that the investigation had been completed. We are not sure, but that the report had been sent to the Department of Justice for an assessment," said Buckingham.

However, both the police and justice department officials say that isn't the case.

A spokesperson for the RNC would not confirm the investigation is wrapped.

Const. James Cadigan said he could not comment on Buckingham's statement, and said the investigation remains an active one. He would not confirm that the investigation report had been sent to the justice department, either.

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice also would not confirm that the investigation is concluded.

"As a department, we are not privy to the status of police investigations. To our knowledge, this is an active police investigation," reads an emailed statement from a department spokesperson.

"We take the responsibility of having inmates in our care very seriously. Ensuring we have a safe and healthy living and work environment in our correctional facilities is a top priority."

Henoche was 33 years old when he died in HMP, while awaiting trial for murder.

It was Nov. 6, 2019 when an incident started in Unit 2B of the facility. Two correctional officers approached Henoche, according to information provided to CBC News from sources.

Henoche was eventually taken to segregation, and reportedly suffered a medical emergency following the incident.

It was a month after his death that the coroner ruled it a homicide.

CBC News previously reported that an incident preceding Henoche's death was caught on camera.

John Gaudi/CBC
John Gaudi/CBC

Henoche was charged with the first-degree murder of well-respected Labrador community leader Regula Schule, who was found unresponsive in her Happy Valley-Goose Bay home during a fire in 2016.

He had been transferred out of the Correctional Centre in Happy Valley-Goose Bay to HMP for his own safety.

Questions remain: Buckingham

Buckingham said knowing that the investigation is complete is a small comfort for the family.

"They don't know how it happened, they don't know why it happened ... this young man did not deserve to die by homicide at the penitentiary, in an institution where people are supposed to be protecting him," Buckingham told CBC News on Friday.

Buckingham alluded to concerns he has related to the investigation "and how it took place," and specifically referenced "investigation techniques," but declined to elaborate further.

Buckingham acknowledged that the investigation into the death is "complicated" — noting the need to interview many witnesses and review security tapes, but said the family wants, and needs, more.

"Now let's see charges get laid, and let's move on and see justice being achieved for Mr. Henoche in this matter," said Buckingham.

He also reiterated his call for a public inquiry into Henoche's death to fully examine "the role racism may have played, the adequacy of training of correctional officers in dealing with mental health" among other factors, he said.

However, on Friday, the justice department said "at this time we are not considering a public inquiry."

Ted Dillon/CBC
Ted Dillon/CBC

Shortly after Henoche's death, Buckingham remembered his client as an unlikely champion for people living with fetal alcohol syndrome.

He said Henoche struggled with the disorder, but was looking forward to his trial and moving forward with his life.

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